On March 5th, the launch of OnLive’s cloud-streamed third party viewer service SL Go was announced on Linden Lab’s official Second Life blog. This new TPV offered a way for users of tablets (Android only, for the time being) and owners of lower-spec desktops and laptops (no Linux version yet, sadly) to enjoy Second Life with all the visual eye candy that can be offered by the official viewer, with the performance that would be expected of a high-end machine. Unlike typical TPVs that are installed and executed locally, SL Go is a commercial service, so its use is not gratis.
Its introduction was met with considerable drama that had to do with (i) its initial pricing structure, (ii) the misconception that, from now on, Linden Lab would require that users use SL Go and other subscription-based services to access Second Life. The former has been duly addressed by OnLive, and the pricing structure is as follows:
- $9.95/month for unlimited access, which starts with a 7-day free trial.
- Pay-as-you-go for $1.00/hour.
As for the latter (the misconception that caused considerable drama in the blogs and forums), perhaps it has to do with the fact that OnLive’s service is endorsed by Linden Lab. Thankfully, it cleared up soon enough. I reviewed SL Go back in April, so for my opinion on SL Go on both tablets and desktops, please read my review.
Now, while SL Go was praised for its performance and visuals, there was some well-deserved criticism. For starters, its camera offsets are even worse than those of the official viewer; navigating low-roofed and cramped buildings becomes nigh-on impossible, because you can easily end up seeing the roof, or the floor above, and not your avatar. Second, it did not support fitted mesh at all. So, any avatars that wore fitted mesh garments were plagued by the well-known “stretch to (0,0,0)” issue.
Fitted mesh support was added on August 14th, when SL Go’s code finally merged with version 3.7.12 of the official viewer. Dennis Harper, Senior Product Manager for SL Go, sent out an email to the bloggers that had previewed the service. Inara Pey reported the news on the 15th; the email Mr. Harper sent to her read:
This is not a huge announcement, but we finally got an update to SL Go that is compatible with the new ‘fitted mesh” feature. I’d like to get the word out there to SL Go users, and hopefully to some the used SL Go but cancelled due to this bug.
SL Go is still alive and kicking here at OnLive. This code merge took way longer than anyone expected, but now we have a clean version representing the latest code from Linden. Now we get to work on the cool stuff. We have some great plans for the near future that I’m sure you will be excited about.
If you have any questions, please let me know. Thanks again for all your support.
Sr. Product Manager – SL Go by OnLive
I’ll have to be a bit pedantic here. The lack of fitted mesh support was not a bug; it was simply caused by the fact that SL Go relied on older (pre-Fitted Mesh) viewer code. It was not like it supported fitted mesh, but didn’t render it correctly. It just had no code for fitted mesh, period. To be honest, this lack of fitted mesh support kept me from using SL Go lately. Today, I jumped in for a few quick tests.
First of all, I tested the fitted mesh support. For this, I had to get out of my latex look (as none of its components is fitted mesh), and hopped to my friend Liara Okkido’s gorgeous build “Le Botanique“. For my quick test, I used the fitted mesh version of the tube string top from Alyce (the white one you see in the pictures), as well as the fitted mesh version of Pixelfashion’s Vanina platform boots. As you can see, the fitted mesh garments are rendered perfectly. Please note that I’m no longer a major shopper, so don’t let my results stop you from testing things out yourselves – I hope you won’t run into any glitches.
Also, as Inara reported in a follow-up post, this update also adds SL Share support for Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. Now, even though I am on all of these platforms, my preferred picture-sharing platform is Flickr, and even then, I typically upload only after I’ve worked on the images a bit, so such functions are a bit lost on me. At any rate, I tested SL Go’s upload facility with Flickr. Before you upload something to Flickr, you need to connect your SL account with Flickr. It’s a simple process, that requires you to log in to your Flickr/Yahoo! account. Sometimes, as Inara mentioned, you might get upload problems which are usually Yahoo!’s fault (Flickr’s “Bad Panda” message). With me, everything went smoothly, and you can see the uploaded photo on my Flickr photostream. OK, It’s certainly no piece of art, but I think it’s fine for illustrative purposes.
So, is everything perfect? No. First of all, SL Go still has these atrocious camera offsets; they’re even worse than the default viewer’s, and they make navigating a realistically-dimensioned building (i.e. one with the ceiling lower than 10 meters above the floor) a major chore. Imagine what it’d be like to have to wade through a claustrophobic maze! Right now, the only way around this for SL Go users is the use of a camera control HUD. I’ve blogged relatively extensively on the matter, and I wish more TPV developers would offer better camera offsets.
Also, as you can see in the picture above, there are rendering issues: The RenderVolumeLOD debug setting is set unacceptably low, as Inara has pointed out, and this causes rendering issues with sculpts, and some textures refuse to render properly. Because of this, distant objects basically fall apart. I don’t understand why OnLive has chosen such a low value for this debug setting. Even on my lowly laptop (with a now-obsolete AMD/ATI Mobility Radeon HD4500 graphics card with 512MB of dedicated DDR3 RAM, which is no longer supported with new drivers, but has to make do with and legacy ones), I’ve set it to 3. I’d suppose that OnLive’s high-end gaming servers could handle a RenderVolumeLOD value of 2.5 or 3 with ease. As for the texture rendering issues, this is why a “Reload textures” option in the context menu would come in handy.
Furthermore, there is still no capability to save snapshots to a user’s computer; for the time being, you’ll have to rely on emailing them to yourselves, until this capability is given (if and when). Furthermore, SL Go still doesn’t have the group ban capability, which I find surprising, as version 3.7.12 of LL’s official viewer has it. And, of course, when it comes to managing windlights for in-world photography, it’s thoroughly trumped by Firestorm and its ilk.
It’s obvious that SL Go is still behind the best desktop viewers. However, as Mr. Harper wrote, the project is very much alive and OnLive have issued (through Inara Pey) a call to TPV developers for paid contract work. So, TPV developers with a proven track record are invited to send an email to email@example.com; the company is interested in hiring people to help improve and refine SL Go with features, UI improvements, etc.
So, what do I think of this update? It was long-anticipated, and I’m pretty sure many people started wondering if SL Go development was still ongoing. At any rate, it brings this TPV closer to what we’re expecting from SL running on a high-end desktop, but there’s still much that needs to be done.
- Introducing SL Go from OnLive – Second Life Official Blogs
- So, how does SL Go measure up in the field? (this blog)
- SL Go: viewer update fixes fitted mesh issue – by Inara Pey
- SL Go: SL Share for Flickr, Twitter and Facebook also now included – by Inara Pey
- Revisiting the issue of camera placement (this blog)
- Calling viewer developers: help enhance and improve SL Go! – by Inara Pey
- SL Go coverage on this blog
- SL Go coverage by Inara Pey